Image of Dr. James Banks delivering a presentation.

A celebration of James Banks


Who founded multicultural education, and how has the concept evolved throughout the years?

GSE hosted a two-day event to explore these questions and honor James Banks, Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Emeritus at the University of Washington. Held in Harriman Hall on UB’s South Campus on Oct. 13 and 14, the event, “The Evolution of Multicultural Education,” celebrated Banks, who is recognized as one of the founders of multicultural education.

The event began with a panel presentation of scholars, including SUNY Distinguished Professor Lois Weis. The panelists discussed Banks’ research on how educational institutions can improve race and ethnic relations, and his impact on schools, colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and the world.

The following day, LaGarrett King, GSE associate professor of social studies education, sat down with Banks to discuss the significant moments in his upbringing, education and career that helped shape him as an educator and researcher.

During their conversation, Banks shared details about growing up in segregated rural Arkansas during the 1940s and 1950s, where he was raised on a Black-owned farm and attended an all-Black school. As a student, he was inspired by his teachers, who helped him blossom in the classroom by providing educational opportunities in spite of limited resources. These educational experiences motivated Banks to become an elementary school teacher.

He went on to become a professor at the University of Washington in 1969. There, his research flourished, and he founded the concept of multicultural education to explore what happens when education celebrates different cultures and prepares students to live in a diverse world.

“The work I have been doing cross-nationally has been very powerful and has enabled me to see the different problems throughout the United States. It is very important for us to look at these problems of racism as a global problem, not just as a national problem,” said Banks.

The GSE community was honored to spend time with Banks and was inspired by his words of wisdom.